What Is A Digital Detox And Why Do You Need One? The Rise Of Social Media & FOMO

Last year, a captivating animated music video made by artist/illustrator Steve Cutts and Moby & the Void Pacific Choir went viral about society’s increasing dependence on technology. A monochrome Max Fleishman-inspired animation, the short three minute clip paints a disturbing portrait of a boy navigating a cellphone-addicted world with images we are all too familiar with: a subway train full of people glued to their cellphones, a family eating at the dinner table staring at their screens, a woman swiping right to find a date, emotionless people firing off emojis, and the most concerning, a video-obsessed crowd filming a suicidal girl as she jumps from a tower. 

For all the convenience and useful benefits technology has provided us, our lives are inundated with electronic devices. Nowadays, we are constantly besieged with pings of emails, texts and phone calls. When you’re constantly distracted, your thoughts don’t have time to fully conceptualize and you don’t have enough distance from your notifications for your mind to breathe. Can you remember the last time you purposely shut your phone or turned off your television screen for an extended period of time?

If the answer is no, it might be time for a digital detox.

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What Is A Digital Detox?

A digital detox means turning off all electronic devices for a certain length of time; in other words, disconnected from all the connectivity. And yes, we do mean everything: mobiles, smartphones, tablets, laptops, computers, television sets (basically, anything with an on/off switch). By doing so, the idea is that we are essentially recharging our proverbial batteries. Going on a digital detox is an opportunity to get away from the cyber world and connect with yourself and others with three-dimensional interactions in the physical world. The effects on your health and wellbeing are many: it’s clear that most of us do not understand or think about the negative repercussions of living in such an over-connected world.

What Are the Effects Of A Digital Detox?

A digital detox can last anywhere from 24 hours to a few days, or even a couple weeks. The benefits of abstaining from digital technology can range from reduced stress and anxiety, to increased mindfulness and becoming more present- some people even report lowered blood pressure levels. Kovert Designs (now Vinaya), a research company that builds wearable tech (think beautifully designed rings, necklaces or bracelets that vibrate when you get messages), conducted an experiment where her team of neuroscientists observed 35 people completely cut from technology on a trip in Morocco. The results were better posture, stronger friendships, improved memory, and more restful sleep, just to name a few. Given the capacity to unplug, people are able to think and deal with deeper, more important issues in their lives.

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The World Of Social Media & Unescapable FOMO

Let’s face it – we are all guilty of reaching for our smartphones and browsing social networks out of habit. With nearly a billion users accessing Facebook daily, scrolling through everyone’s curated personal feed or keeping on top of Instagram with its glossy ‘everyone else’s life is perfect’ illusion, has helped to cultivate a culture of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). FOMO leaves people feeling jealous and annoyed at not being invited to a party or subconsciously comparing yourself with friends and feeling inadequate about their work/life/romantic success. FOMO leads to social comparison, status anxiety, insecurity and in some cases, varying degrees of depression. Time did an excellent piece on understanding social media-derived FOMO and how to overcome it if you want to look further into the matter.

Why Should I Go On A Digital Detox?

Yes, Facebook connects people. But when you’re caught in the loop of FOMO, it’s easy to forget these social networking platforms offer a small (and heavily edited) glimpse into the lives of your peers. It’s important to remind yourself that it’s not real life. If this strikes a chord with you, great! You’re not alone. Maybe it’s time to go on a digital detox. Forbes has some great tips. The Telegraph also offers some good suggestions on how to prepare for one. Find time to disconnect in order to reconnect.


All photos courtesy of Pexels. 

Jenny Star Lor

Jenny Star Lor is Green Queen's resident wellness writer. Originally from Los Angeles, she now calls Hong Kong home. She has worked for global publications such as The Hollywood Reporter and US Weekly. She is also passionate about pole dancing and teaches in Hong Kong.